Nepal: Sufferings from Climate Warming

By Hari Prasad Shrestha      5/2/2018

The poorest and most vulnerable people are being affected the most by the effect of climate change compared to the rich countries. The Himalayan country of Nepal has neither plenty of industries nor an excessive quantity of burning fossil fuels; the problem of deforestation is also not very stern, but unusual and significant climate changes have been observed here. The gift of the industrialized nations to the globe, global warming has covered atmosphere of Nepal and glaciers in the Himalayas are melting fast. Without its big fault, Nepal is getting the punishment of global warming.
Climate change is affecting all nations by changing weather patterns, rising sea level, and more extreme weather events. As result of the greenhouse gas emissions, the world’s average surface temperature is projected to likely to surpass 3 degrees Celsius this century.
It needs to be coordinated at the international level and entails international collaboration to support developing countries move toward a low-carbon economy.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Chang for each 1 degree of temperature increase, grain yields decline by about 5 percent. Maize, wheat and other major crops have experienced significant yield reductions at the global level of 40 megatons per year between 1981 and 2002. From 1901 to 2010, the sea level rose by 19 cm as oceans expanded due to warming and ice melted.
Moreover, given current concentrations and on-going emissions of greenhouse gases, it is likely that by the end of this century, the increase in global temperature will exceed 1.5°C. Average sea level rise is predicted as 24 – 30cm by 2065 and 40-63cm by 2100. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions are stopped.
To address climate change, countries adopted the Paris Agreement at the COP21 in Paris on 12 December 2015. It entered into force, on 4 November 2016. All countries approved to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, and given the serious risks, to attempt to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Implementation of this agreement is essential to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and offers a road ahead for climate activities that will reduce emissions and build climate resilience.
The Sustainable Development Goal of the United Nations – ‘Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts’ indicates an urgency to address effects of climate change by all nations of the world.

The world heritage Mount Everest is also under threat of global warming. There are some factual findings to prove this. According to National Geographic News, a team sponsored by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has found signs that the landscape of Mount Everest has changed significantly since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first conquered the peak in 1953. The next revelation is that the UNEP scientists based in the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) have used satellite images and on the ground, studies to pinpoint 44 glacial lakes in Nepal and Bhutan that are swollen and could burst anytime. Moreover, the photographs released by environmental groups show how the past 40 years of climate change are transforming the Himalayan landscape as ancient glaciers melt and retreat higher up the slopes.

These are the authentic revelations of international explorations. The results of these explorations are not an overstatement. Many Sherpas and mountaineers, who regularly travel on the Himalayas, they also narrate many stories about lessening snow levels in the Himalayan glaciers. The official data of the Government of Nepal also reveals that frequency of snowfalls in the mountains is declining.

The Himalayas are one of the important indicator of climate warming through its melting glaciers, and the coming generations may not see snow in the Himalayas. Snow in the Himalayas might become the stuff of fairy tale after a couple of decades. This forecast might be true or not, but we cannot ignore it, or completely reject it.

Nepal is suffering tremendously from the process of climate warming and lessening its effect government is taking many internal measures and supporting international conventions.

The Government of Nepal approved National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA). NAPA developed as a requirement under the UNFCCC to access funding for the most urgent and immediate adaptation needs from the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF).
Many integrated projects have been identified under it as the urgent and immediate national adaptation priority. Promoting community-based adaptation through integrated management of agriculture, water, forest, and biodiversity sector and building and enhancing the adaptive capacity of vulnerable communities through the improved system and access to services related to agriculture development are in high priority. Moreover, community-based disaster management for facilitating climate adaptation, adapting to climate challenges in public health and ecosystem management for climate adaptation and empowering vulnerable communities through sustainable management of water resource and clean energy support and promoting climate-smart urban settlement are other integrated projects to support the adaption priorities.
In the year 2009, Nepal’s cabinet met at the base of Everest to highlight the impact of climate change on the Himalayas and adopted the Everest Declaration. Twenty-four of Nepal’s cabinet members met at the base of Everest to highlight the impact of climate change. Ministers wore oxygen masks and used microphones because the wind made it difficult to hear. It is feared melting glaciers could cause water scarcity affecting one billion people. The ministers adopted 10-point Everest Declaration which increases the area of Nepal’s protected land.

“The Himalayas are important not only for the people of Nepal but for 1.3 billion people who depend on waters from the mountains for their livelihoods,” said Nepal’s then Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal at the cabinet meeting.

The 10-point Everest Declaration the cabinet adopted includes increasing the protected area of Nepal’s land from 20 percent to 25 percent, developing communities’ capacity to cope with climate change and working together with other countries to mitigate the impact of global warming.
The declaration also supported developed countries’ plans to contribute 1.5 percent of GDP to a climate fund and bring down greenhouse gases to pre-industrialization levels.

“The earth is our common abode,” said the Prime Minister Nepal. “To save the earth, the biggest sacrifice is needed from nations producing enormous amounts of carbon.”
An area, where positive developments have been witnessed as a good example in Community Forestry (CF) in Nepal, more than 1.652 million forest lands handed over to 1.45 million households of 17685 community forest user group (CFUG) to conserve, manage the forest. CFUG as a common property resource management program in Nepal has resulted in improving forest cover and condition. By institutionally, community forest user group is autonomous, independent and accountable institution for conserving, managing and utilizing of natural resources in Nepal legitimized by Forest Act 1992 and Forest Regulation 1995 of Nepal. It enhanced biodiversity, water flow, and soil stability. More than 90% of villager’s report that their forests are in better condition than a decade ago. Furthermore, CFs can meet poor & vulnerable household’s daily subsistence needs for forest products such as firewood, fodder, & timbers. Apart from this, growing forests capture and store carbon that is contributing to both mitigation and adaptation to CC.
Nepal, along with over 150 other countries, signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. Nepal ratified the convention on 2nd May in 1994, and this convention came into force on 31st July in 1994.

Greenhouse gases are changing due to both natural and human factors and contributing to climate warming. Water is the most important one which accounts for about 2.27 percent of the world water resources. The major sources of water are glaciers; snow melts from the Himalayas, rainfall and groundwater. The glaciers of the Himalayas are the renewable storehouse of fresh water which serves as the perennial source of several rivers in the country.

One of the most alarming results of climate change was observed in the Tsho Rolpa glacial lake, which swollen unusually in last half decade, also known as the most dangerous glacial lake in Nepal. It is situated at an elevation of 4,580 meters above sea level at the source of the Rolwaling River in the Tama Koshi basin, north of the capital Kathmandu. The lake has swollen, containing nearly 100 million cubic meters of water. It was reported that if it burst, the Tsho Rolpa could affect life and property as far away as 100 kilometers downstream.

In 2003, the Kawari glacier lake, situated in the foothills of the Annapurna II mountain, burst, destroying property worth the US $100,000. Five people were killed, and dozens rendered homeless.

The dangerous effect of global warming and snow melting was observed during the excess flood in the Koshi river of Nepal in 2008. The abnormal flood in Koshi river broke the dam, killed countless lives and vast deserted lands of eastern Nepal and northern Bihar of India.

Consequences of climate change for the society vary by geographical location and remoteness. These effects will be more negative to communities who are living in the hills, mountains and river flood plains.

Climate change affects the health of millions of people especially the poor, the elders and the city dwellers through increased deaths, disease and due to heat waves, floods, storms, fires, and droughts. City dwellers are especially affected due to acute water shortages. Impact of climate change could also be on migratory patterns, as people have tendencies to migrate to more climatically suitable areas.

Of all human activities, agriculture consumes the greatest amount of water accounting for about 96 percent of the total water use in the country. Stress on water availability and shortages of food availability in Asia is likely to be exacerbated by climate change in coming decades. As per projection, about 50 million additional people of the world are likely to be in danger of hunger by 2020 due to further climate warming.

Deformation process in the Nepalese mountains is perceptible due to the breaking of the mountains. Landslides have been very normal occurrences here during the rainy season. It has been roughly estimated that there are over 12,000 landslides in Nepal each year. Landslides give a very serious message of a negative effect on farming land, agriculture production, livestock and road networks. They also affect negatively the development activities, economy and life, and property of general people. The cause of this problem might be quite a lot; some severe man-made problems have been cited here.
According to a study, Nepal’s forest area has been decreased by 25%, or, 1.2 million hectares loss of forest from 1990 to 2005. Besides, primary forest cover was diminished as well, falling by nearly 11 percent during that period. The deforestation trend in Chure and Mahabharat hills of Nepal might be higher than this estimation.
The Nepalese mountains have steep slopes, prone to landslides not only affecting to mountain falls but also sliding the forest and forest products. Excessive hillside cutting, overgrazing on the slopes, erosion of land of rivers, earthquake occurrence are other factors that are causing natural disasters in Nepal.

Every day, thousands of cubic meters of sand, boulder, and aggregates are being extracted to build large infrastructures. These natural resources are removed from riverbeds, riverbanks and excavated from the ground near the foothills of the Chure hills. The removal of sand and boulders in Nepal can be seen in most of the rivers of southern Terai of Nepal. This unplanned exploitation work of natural resources is increasing in massive scale, beyond the bearing capacity of the rivers and the hill slopes of Nepal. This new man-made aberrant, exploitation of natural resources in excessive quantities, has deepened the riverbeds and to fill the deepened riverbeds with sand, boulder, and aggregate, landslides in soft rocks of the upper hills occur in massive scales.

The atmosphere is a complex, dynamic natural gaseous system that is essential to support life, both human and non-human life on planet Earth. Stratospheric ozone depletion due to air pollution has long been recognized as a threat to human health as well as to the Earth’s ecosystems. An air pollutant is known as a substance in the air that can cause harm to humans and the environment.

Pollutants can be in the form of solid particles, liquid droplets, or gases. Also, they may be natural or man-made.
Air pollution is the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or damage the natural environment, into the atmosphere. Nepal’s border area with India, Terai filled with dust, gases and invisible days during the winter season due to smoke discharged by the bordering Indian industries and other pollutants.

The greenhouse effect is a phenomenon whereby greenhouse gases create a condition in the upper atmosphere causing trapping of heat and leading to increased surface and lower tropospheric temperatures. Carbon dioxide from combustion of fossil fuels is the major problem. Other greenhouse gases include methane, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, chlorofluorocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and ozone. Power plants, motor vehicles, dust and controlled burn practices in agriculture and forestry management are sources of air pollution. Nuclear, toxic gases, germ warfare, and rocketry also create atmospheric pollution.
Each year the temperature in Nepal is increasing by 0.06 degree Celsius. The agriculture sector has been unreliable due to heavy rain, drought, and flood. Recently, an American satellite photographed burning forests at various locations of Nepal. Due to no rain in the winter and excess dryness in the forests, forest fires are ever increasing here.

The other effect of global warming is observed in the hydropower sector in Nepal. Due to the low water level in the rivers and reservoirs, the power generating a capacity of hydropower projects have decreased.

Floods and landslides in Nepal happen in the monsoon season. Heavy rainfall causes flash floods in rivers originating in hilly regions. Silt and debris block the rivers for hours, and sudden release of river water breaks the mountains in the form of landslides and natural disasters. Future costs to control landslides and the natural disasters appear to be unbearable to Nepal.

A renounced Nepali mountaineer, Appa Sherpa, back from his record 19th successful ascent of Mount Everest, said that rising temperatures and garbage dumped on the mountain threaten the environment of the Himalayas.

The threats and risks of climate change have manifested not only in the melting of the Himalayan glaciers but are also seen as the cause of violent storm surges. Nepal is not the only country affected by the Himalayan glacial melting and climate change; almost all the countries of the region around the Himalayas are severely suffering.

Environmental campaigners refer to the Himalayas as the “third pole” and say the melting glaciers are the biggest potential contributors to rising sea levels after the north and south poles.

The Himalayan nations are already feeling the effects of climate warming, with cattle and sheep herders having to seek to graze at higher altitudes. Climate warming poses the highest threat to those indigenous people who have contributed the least to carbon emissions.

The Himalayas are the source of the world’s seven largest rivers and supply water to 40 percent of its population. As snow reservoirs run out at an alarming rate, millions of people dependent on glacial water will be directly affected.

By 2050 there may be a 75 percent retreat of glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau, which supply water to about 40 percent of the global population; Himalayan glacier melt is a global water issue.

Glaciers in the Himalayas, a 2,400-km range that sweeps through Pakistan, India, China, Nepal, and Bhutan, provide headwaters for Asia’s largest rivers, a lifeline for people who live downstream. With 1.3 billion people dependents on the water that flows down from the melting Himalayan glaciers, it is essential to tackle the impact of climate change.

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